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El Borak and Other Desert Adventures [Paperback]

Robert E. Howard
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 9 2010
Robert E. Howard is famous for creating such immortal heroes as Conan the Cimmerian, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn. Less well-known but equally extraordinary are his non-fantasy adventure stories set in the Middle East and featuring such two-fisted heroes as Francis Xavier Gordon—known as “El Borak”—Kirby O’Donnell, and Steve Clarney. This trio of hard-fighting Americans, civilized men with more than a touch of the primordial in their veins, marked a new direction for Howard’s writing, and new territory for his genius to conquer.

The wily Texan El Borak, a hardened fighter who stalks the sandscapes of Afghanistan like a vengeful wolf, is rivaled among Howard’s creations only by Conan himself. In such classic tales as “The Daughter of Erlik Khan,” “Three-Bladed Doom,” and “Sons of the Hawk,” Howard proves himself once again a master of action, and with plenty of eerie atmosphere his plotting becomes tighter and twistier than ever, resulting in stories worthy of comparison to Jack London and Rudyard Kipling. Every fan of Robert E. Howard and aficionados of great adventure writing will want to own this collection of the best of Howard’s desert tales, lavishly illustrated by award-winning artists Tim Bradstreet and Jim & Ruth Keegan.

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El Borak and Other Desert Adventures + Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures + The Best of Robert E. Howard    Volume 2: Grim Lands
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“Howard’s writing seems so highly charged with energy that it nearly gives off sparks.”—Stephen King

“Howard had a gritty, vibrant style—broadsword writing that cut its way to the heart, with heroes who are truly larger than life.”—David Gemmell 

“For stark, living fear . . . what other writer is even in the running with Robert E. Howard?”—H. P. Lovecraft

About the Author

Robert E. Howard was born January 22, 1906, southwest of Fort Worth. His father, a country physician, moved the family around Texas before settling in the small town of Cross Plains in 1919. While in high school, Howard began submitting stories to magazines, and Weird Tales magazine accepted Spear and Fang. Solomon Kane was the first of his continuing characters to see print; others included King Kull and Bran Mak Morn. Howard tried detective fiction, horror, and Paul Bunyanesque tales, then in 1933, Weird Tales introduced Conan the Cimmerian. In 1935 his mother was admitted to the King's Daughters Hospital. Told she would never recover, he committed suicide in 1936.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Gunfighters of the East! Feb. 24 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Del Rey has done it again in bringing yet another fantastic compilation of Robert E. Howard's work. At over 550 pages, this is the biggest compilation yet. It focuses on Howard's "desert" adventures. They feature tough, fast, and dangerous men who have been able to carve out a precarious living amongst the tough Asian desert lands and their peoples. An appendix called "Gunfighters of the East" is an appropriate summary. These stories are not his most well-known, yet they sold exceptionally well towards the end of his brief career. Some were later poached by L. Sprague de Camp and butchered into Conan tales (e.g., Three-Bladed Doom was re-written as "The Flame Knife"). Readers familiar with those stories can see how they fare as originally written. Personally, I really like these stories, particularly the El Borak stories. While the plots are rarely complex, the action is awesome. Most of the stories have little to no magic in them, so they're just straight-up action from around the 1920's. What I found particularly interesting is how well Howard's description of Afghani warriors and peoples holds up to much of what we have witnessed over the last twenty to thirty years in that country. The introduction by the late Steve Tompkins (who only just passed away) is superb, as are the copious drawings by Tim Bradstreet (who draws photograph-like drawings in only black and white, no grey) and Jim & Ruth Keegan (whose work reminds me of Gary Gianni).

They include:
Swords of the Hills
The Daughter of Erlik Khan
Three-Bladed Doom
Hawks of the Hills
Blood of the Gods
Sons of the Hawk
Son of the White Wolf
Gold from Tatary
Swords of Shahrazar
The Trail of the Blood-Stained God
The Fire of Asshurbanipal
Three-Bladed Doom (original manuscript)
Unfinished fragment

If you love Howard or if you love action and adventure, this collection is highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the spirit of Lamb and Mundy... Feb. 11 2010
By Jay - Published on Amazon.com
As an anthology of Robert Howard's nonfantastic Arabian adventures, this book is top-notch. Although less well known than his justifiably famous Conan, Howard's El Borak, Steve Clarney, and Kirby O'Donnell are all powerful characters who dominate the tales Howard writes about them. Of all the stories, Three-Bladed Doom--the long version--is probably the best though I can't think of any I wouldn't recommend. The action is suitably bloodthirsty and well described while Howard's trademark breathless pace is evident throughout each of these desert yarns. As noted in the title of my review, the influence of Harold Lamb and Talbot Mundy is present although subtle at times even as Howard makes this material original enough to be identifiable as his. Thankfully the editors did the yeoman's work of giving us copious background material in both the introduction and the afterword even as the shorter version of Three-Bladed Doom and an untitled O'Donnell fragment serve as a miscellaneous appendix. Appropriately for the material, the artwork is shadowy and gritty much like the characters. This is an improvement for the Keegan's, whose artistic contributions to the Best of Robert E Howard volumes earlier in this series were not nearly up to the level of the artwork by other artists in other volumes. Overall, this is a fine addition to Del Rey's brilliant series, and I hope the publisher plans to continue. Maybe next time they can focus on his westerns or a two-volume collection of all his boxing stories. I hope so anyway.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute blast Jan. 7 2011
By James Patrick Conlon - Published on Amazon.com
I was in a book store and unable to find what I was looking for, namely early 20th century setting, non-fantasy exotic adventure until I stumbled upon this. (When did the SciFi/Fantasy section become a spill over zone for Romance novels?) While I knew of Howard's King Kull, Solomon Kane and, of course, Conan, I had never heard of El Borak. Since it was the only thing in the store matching what I wanted to read, I picked it up.

This new-to-me character is, like Howard's other protagonists, an adventurer, but Howard did not create clones. Francis Xavier Gordon has no discernible interest in wealth, tries to smooth things over between conflicting friends and, for those inexperienced enough to be romantics, there is a... wait for it... hand holding scene. Not being entirely without sentimentalism, I thought it was a nice touch from the master of skull cleaving fiction.

The prose is clear, lyrical in places, fast and furious. Mr. Howard knew his craft well.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Howards Best Non-Conan or Kane Work June 10 2010
By Tim Janson - Published on Amazon.com
Robert E. Howard is best known as the creator of Swords & Sorcery heroes like Conan, Kull, and Solomon Kane. But Howard was nothing if not pragmatic as a writer. Working during the Great Depression, Howard went where the work was in sold in any market--any genre he could to make money. Some of Howard's best work in fact was in the field of adventure fiction where he created characters such as Francis Xavier Gordon, aka El Broak, a gunfighter and adventurer from Texas, and Irish American treasure hunter Kirby O'Donnell. These were both early 20th century characters, set in the 1920s, post World War I against the exotic backdrop of the Middle East. Seven El Borak tales and three O'Donnell tales are collected together in this huge new volume and restored back to the definitive Howard version with their original titles. Several stories did not see publication until after Howard's death and thus some of the titles had been altered when previously published.

"Son of the White Wolf" has Gordon on the trail of Turkish troops under the command of Germans who wipe out a village and steal all the women including a beautiful German spy. Gordon sets out to rescue her and get revenge.

In "The Daughter of Erlik Khan" Gordon must rescue a runway princess from the husband who wants her returned and executed and has hired a pair of English assassins to do the deed.

"The Lost Valley of Iskander" finds Gordon discovering a lost civilization that dates back to the time of Alexander the Great and an evil king who wants him dead.

"Three-Bladed Doom" is the longest tale, near novel in length, as Gordon has to track down a ruthless cult that is killing regional leaders who are loyal to the British.

In "The Curse of the Crimson God" O'Donnell is on the trail of a stolen treasure map that leads to a fabulous jeweled idol call the Bloodstained God.

The O'Donnell stories have a distinct "Indiana Jones" type of feel to them as O' Donnell is disguised as an Arab, Ali el Ghazi for much of the time. The stories are filled with a lot of intrigue and loads of two-fisted, sword-swinging, gun-blazing action. These two heroes are more than just modern day versions of Conan. They each have their own unique character traits that set them apart from Howard's other characters. If you love Conan, Kull, or Solomon Kane, you owe it to yourself to check out this collection.
5.0 out of 5 stars Robert E. Howard tales of adventure, just the best March 30 2014
By Michael - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Loved it! No one writes the way Howard did! Stories that spanned 20 years of the young authors life, written with sensitivity and daring! A hero like no other, El Borak ,"the Swift"
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb April 19 2013
By Terence Tidler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Conanish, minus the supernatural. Reflects REH's incredible ability to write action stories and haul the reader along at a breakneck pace
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